LINCOLNTON- Lincoln County's 2015 Red Devils jumped off to a strong start as they pounded McCormick 41-6 in the season opener for both teams.
This Friday the Devils will make their biennial trek on US 378 to face the Tigers. The game will be the season opener for Washington-Wilkes, and the first game as a head coach for new Tiger boss Jacob Kelley. Coach Kelley was the Tiger offensive coordinator a few years ago before getting the call to return to replace Robby Robinson. Robinson returned to McIntosh County Academy after four W-W years.
The Lincoln County vs Washington-Wilkes rivalry continues to be one of the most-heated matchups in Georgia and the Augusta area. The Tigers have a chance to even the series if they are able to win their fourth in a row over the Devils. Kickoff is 7:30, but stands are expected to fill way before that.
Starting with two wins in 1922, Lincoln County now leads the series with McCormick 36-10. The victory was the 23rd straight for the Georgia team, after a 14-6 Chief win in 1974 when McCormick was a top-ranked South Carolina team. The last loss to McCormick in Lincolnton came in 1951.
The Red Devils were clicking on all cylinders against the Chiefs, as the offense and the defense both played very well. Head Coach Kevin Banks and his assistants had their charges well-prepared, with few penalties and no turnovers.
The Devil Defense, with Howard Ellis returning the Devils to his successful hard-hitting style of a few years ago, all but shut down McCormick's star running back. Mataeo Durant managed only 46 yards on 12 carries. His longest run of the night was a 70-yard kickoff return, but the Devils caught him before he scored. The only Chief points were setup by the return plus an offsides penalty, and then the Devils barely gave up the TD on fourth down from the 3.
On offense, Quay Hartfield and Jamal Norman led the rushing attack. Hartfield rushed 10 times for 68 yards and 2 TDs. Norman carried the pigskin 7 times for 66 yards and one score.
Sophomore Javon Reid started at quarterback and played well despite a thigh bruise. Blake Beggs took over in the third quarter and completed his first pass for a 25-yard touchdown. He would connect on two of his three pass attempts for 52 yards. Austin Parks caught both of those.
Both teams picked up first downs on their initial possessions of the game, but neither could get a sustained drive going. The Devils' field position improved with each possession, with LC taking over on the Chief 41 after a good defensive stand and short punt.
Quay Hartfield, this season sporting jersey 5 instead of 24, rushed for three yards. Jayden Robinson ran for four before Reid gained three and a first down. Hartfield then went left and stiff-armed a Chief for 15 yards, to the 16. Two plays later Reid rambled on the right side, using his blocker for a 13-yard gain to the three. He then scored from there with 1:13 left in the opening quarter of the season. Ryan O'Neill kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Devil Defense recovered a fumble at the Chief 27 to end the next McCormick drive. Norman rushed for 15. Norman then scored from the 12 with Hartfield blocking on the right side. O'Neill's PAT put the Devils up by 14 with 11:26 left before the band marched.
The Chiefs picked up one first down before Tydarius Elam snagged a fumble at midfield. Reid passed 10 yards to David Byrne. Robinson rushed for 11 then 2 to the 26. Norman rushed for four before Hartfield scored from 22 yards out. With the kick, the Devils went up 21-0 with 5:26 left in the half.
Then came Durant's outstanding kickoff return for about 70 yards. He first went left, then reversed field with only two Red Devils between him and the endzone. They held him up down the field until help arrived and tackled the great runner at the LC 12. These Devils don't stop playing until the whistle sounds. The Devil Defense played tough, forcing 4th-and-5 at the 7 before an offsides penalty gave McCormick a first down at the 2. Three plays lost three yards against the reinvigorated Devil D before Durant barely got the ball across the goalline on fourth down with 14 seconds left in the half. A bad snap on the PAT left the home team with a 21-6 lead at the break.
After a Chief punt on their first possession of the second half, the Devils took over at the Chief 44. Parks was not able to make the catch on a pass near the goalline. Robinson rushed for 14 yards for a first down at the 25. Then Parks got another chance, as Beggs ran the same play and this time Parks snatched the ball and scored. The Devils faked the PAT effort but the pass failed. Lincoln County led 27-6 with 8:21 left in the third quarter.
The short kickoff went out-of-bounds, but the Chiefs were unable to take advantage of their best field position of the night. Three plays gained zero yards, and McCormick punted again.
Beggs and Parks connected again, this time for 27 yards and a first down at the Chief 16. Hartfield then ran straight in untouched for his second TD of the night. With O'Neill's kick the Devils led 34-6 with 4:50 left in the third.
The visitors started from their 9 after a penalty on the kickoff return, and went backwards from there. Three plays lost four yards and forced a punt.
Big Red started from the Chief 36. Norman gained 10 for a first down at the 24. After a pass barely missed, Norman rushed for 17. Elam scored from the 7 with 11:32 left in the game. The PAT took the score to 41-6. The rest of the fourth quarter was played with a running clock.